Worst fiscal year since 1931

Break out the Model T, time for the Joads to flee the Dust Bowl. Today the Wall Street Journal reports:

“The blue-chip measure ended the year down 34%, its worst annual performance since 1931. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq plummeted 39% and 41%, respectively, for the year.”


On the water for a scull around Grand Island — taking advantage of still winds, calm waters, and decent temperatures (28 f). So I launched in barefeet, taking note of the slushy water in the shallows, climbed aboard, and started sculling, staying a short distance from the beach in the event of an unplanned capsizing.


Ran into a pancake of ice the size of a basketball court, slid through it, thinking “the hull on this boat is 1/16″ of carbon fiber”, then broke through and continued on my way.

Last row of 2008? Few days to go, we shall see.

Holiday Challenge – Mission Accomplished

200,671 meters spread across the 28 days between Thanksgiving and tonight, Christmas Eve. Ended it this afternoon with a final 10,000 meter piece in the boat shop, sweating to some heavy metal cranked on the iPod and setting my best 10K time of 2008 with a heart rate up around hummingbird levels.

Some dude rowed 1.5 million meters in 28 days — that’s 50,000+ meters per day, which, to my crude math, is close to four hours a day – every day — on a rolling seat  with a handle attached to a bike chain and a fan.  So Don Siebert, age 60, out there in Lansing, MI. This Bud’s for you.

I celebrated by eating two pounds of Vermont’s best cheese and a $80 cassoulet ordered and assembled per the instructions from D’Artagnan, a duck specialty mailhouse I found on the web. I ate like a Roman tonight and now need to hire a little boy to tie my shoes.

And to all good night and a happy happy holiday. Stay tuned for the Churbuck year in review and some random non-work posts over the next few days.

ThinkPad GPS

The new X200 I’ve been configuring comes with an integrated GPS. I played with the utility application ThinkVantage GPS 2.01 inside the house — which is of course stupid as the device needs to be outside, under the blue sky, in order to pick up the satellites and triangulate a fix.

So I went outside this morning in the December chill, turned on the software, waited a few minutes for the satellites to be detected, and then output the results to Google Maps.

Ta-da. A map of Cotuit but no icon showing me where I am in Cotuit.

Now I need to figure out the application for everyday consumers like me. Velcro the laptop to the dashboard? Not as cool as my Garmin. Take sailing? Would need to buy a NOAA nautical chart pack and hope the waterproof keyboard is up to green water over the bow. Which it won’t be. What can one do with a GPS in a notebook? Stay tuned, I’ll figure something out.

Start your engines

With a mere 20,000 meters to go before I make the 200,000 meter Holiday Challenge, I entered the 2009 CRASH-B World Indoor Rowing Championships on February 22. Two months of training to get my 2,000 time down to something respectable. I’ll be in the Veteran’s 50-54 Heavyweights and the world record is 6:07. My best 2K is around a 6:25 or something in my early 40s …. so I’ll be happy to get under 7 minutes this year.

Something to obsess about.

Winter wonderland

The wife wants to go to Vermont to attend a surprise 50th birthday party for a fourth grade classmate (and godmother to our daughter) and before I can permit my innate agoraphobia to veto the expedition, she pre-pays two nights in a B&B so I have to go or risk burning $300 in Amex charges.

Off we go on Friday in the all-wheel-drive vehicle, forging north and west into the teeth of an iminent blizzard forecast to drop a foot of snow on Cape Cod. By the time I get to the Vermont border, it’s snowing like the Donner Party and traffic is moving at a resoundingly sluggish 20 mph on Route 91 on one lane of slick asphalt. Oh joy. Oh semi-trailers laden with logs going 70 mph in the fast lane and blowing total white-outs in their path. Wife is doing contortions of panic in the seat next to me. Begging me to find safe refuge off the highway from hell.

Forge on! I declare and we limp into Waitsfield, Vermont, 350-butt-puckering-miles later. I find a bar (the magnificant Pitcher Inn of Warren, Vermont), get a glass of 52 year-old armagnac and turn into a total couch potato in front of a roaring fire as the snow falls and the world turns into a  remake of White Christmas, replete with carolers, grumpy dairy farmers in their Johnson woolies, and dusty mooseheads staring from the log cabin walls.

Life improves. Saturday the village is covered with diamond sparkling powder so we head to the mountains, Mad River Glen to be exact, an anachronistic, socialistic cooperative ski area where snowboarding is banned, there is no snow making apparatus, and there is no grooming of the rocky, icy, gnarly slopes of General Stark Mountain. We meet good friend and former cycling partner Marta in the lodge, I get all comfy with the concept of some lodge chili and local microbrew, when Marta decides it is a good time to go snowshoeing and introduces us to the resident naturalist, Sean, who gets us equipped, hands me a vague map, and recommends we try the “challenging” trail.

Off we go, up mountain, through the woods, in a total Last of the Mohicans experience that rapidly deteriorates into Lost Bohican (bend over, here it comes again) as I lose the trail and begin to learn the perspiration wicking wonder of wool, becoming sodden in forty pounds of Dave sweat while standing up to my knees in a silent birch forest with the bluejays and squirrels making the only noise.

Lost,  we forge onwards — this is how it always begins I say to myself — and get more lost by the minute. No water. No compass. Great.

Then I hear a skiier on a trail, catch a flash of color, and head to an ungroomed slope. Wife and I trudge down the hill, to the base lodge, where we call it a day and turn in the snowshoes. So there’s a supposedly cool thing I can say I have done (and would do again, but with better preparation next time.)

Surprise 50th birthday party was conducted in a restored barn. Bluegrass band. BBQ. I was happy.

Then we drove home yesterday into the teeth of an even bigger snowstorm. Wife unhappy with conditions. Me tempting disaster in the unplowed fast lane. Home by 1 pm into a howling rainstorm. Cotuit is the antithesis of Vermont. Where they have pretty snow, we have grey slush and dog poo surfacing through the mess.

The cloud can’t come fast enough ….

Migrating from one PC to the next (never mind going from a Mac to a PC or vice-versa) is one ugly, nasty, stupid experience. From moving my corporate persona from one laptop to the next, to reconfiguring all my favorite non-corporate apps (Adobe Photoshop Elements, Flickr uploader, Office 2007, blah blah blah).

It feels tedious just beefing about it.

The days of locally resident applications is so ripe to be shotgunned from existence the way the world finally croaked 50 lb. CRT displays and is in the process of doing away with spinning hard drives in favor for solid state.  The optical drive just needs to go away, maybe preserved for some old DVDs to watch on the flight, but other than that — I want my software up in the cloud where someone else can upgrade it, patch it, and deal with it. Just give me my user name and password and be done with it. Digging around closets for my official copy of Office 2007 — and then having to patch it to the latest service pack? Life is too darned short for such stupidity.

Oh, and give me free broadban WAN while you’re at it please.

Pretty please?

This is cool — every flight in the world in 72 seconds. Thanks to Esteban for the twitter link.

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